a reading nook


Forgive me, I’ve gotten a bit behind in sharing with you some of the exciting things going on this house.  There’s been birth, baby, post-partum, yes of course.  But there were other things going on a few months ago during my supreme and most-elongated nesting phase that I had the wherewithal to photograph, but not necessarily the wherewithal to post.  So here we are.

A long while back, I shared with you a few projects that I did around the house as a result of taking a really cool online course called “The Playful Learning E-course.”  It’s a really neat go-at-your-own-pace class that gets you inspired to make some simple changes and doctor up your house so it’s more child-centric.  I did this room, this little space, and this wall organization as homework for the class last summer.

One of my favorite things about this e-course is how the teacher encourages you to find little nooks and crannies around your house.  With a little imagination and usually some objects you find lying around elsewhere in your home, you can re-create these small spaces as mini-learning and playing centers.  The nook you see below, at the top of our stairs, has always beckoned my attention.  When we moved in to this house, we immediately painted this hallway space (you can see a horrific “before” and lovely “after” here).  Once it was sparkly white, I fell in love with this little space that’s about 4 feet by 3 feet.  But I didn’t know what to do with it.

At first, I put a shelf and some toys there in hopes that Orlis would want to play there, but it never drew him.  So, I thought for a few months, and then decided, after taking this course and learning the importance of creating a cozy space for reading, to make it a book nook.


after painting, before reading nook

I took a class to learn how to make some zippered floor pillows.


(I’m very proud of these.)


Then I knocked out four more regular pillows while Orlis serenaded me.  I gathered up some books, a bit of artwork, and a couple of fluffy rugs…


and a reading nook was born.

nook copy

After! A reading nook.

(Wall art by Johanna Wright; faux lambskin rugs by Ikea.)


And, oh, what a cozy place it is — to snuggle up with some good books and my cuddly boys and treat ourselves to a good read.


Note: I updated the books on the sidebar recently — there are some good reads floating around this house (and landing in the reading nook).  Check ‘em out!



playspace: before, before, and after

This old house of ours has a few sweet nooks and crannies.  One of the big selling points for me was the little porch-turned-sunroom just off the kitchen with a door to the backyard.  It was a big selling point, though the space is not big at all — just shy of 7 feet by 9 feet.  The previous owner used it as an additional eating area (the two photos to follow are of my initial walk-thru of the house), which is a sweet idea, but when I saw it, I immediately thought, “what a fun little playroom this could be.”

Before Playroom 1

Before Playroom 2

When we moved in, this room was painted a very light shady of buttery yellow, and, it being a small doable space, it was the first room we painted our own shade of sunshine — a much stronger, orangey yellow — Benjamin Moore’s aptly titled color, “American Cheese.”

We moved Orlis’ toys in there, along with some other furniture,  and the room became a bit hodge podge.  For some reason, I was reluctant to let go of a few old pieces of furniture — a dish cupboard and a vintage table with chairs, which made the room, in theory, multi-functional, but in reality, not really functional at all.  This embarrassing photo, for example, shows how inaccessible all of the art supplies were to little Orlis.

The 2nd Before, Playroom

The 2nd Before, Playroom

I needed to be honest with myself and do the hard work of letting go.  Enter: the wonderful online  Playful Learning class I’ve been taking this summer that I blogged about a few weeks ago in reference to our new living room  Science Station.   The genius of this class is that, in regards to setting up useful play spaces for children, where there’s a “problem” the teacher helps you see possibility.  And boy does the class help you appreciate small spaces.  With the exception of purchasing a few little Ikea shelving pieces, most of what I used to transform this room I already had laying around the house.  I learned that all I really needed to do was group things together, label them, and get them down at eye level.  That is, 2-foot eye level.  I started to see that once I paired things down, got simple materials organized together, and made them accessible to Orlis, he would be able to play more independently.  

A bit of shelving, a few hooks, hammer, and nails, several unmatched baskets, and an hour or two of pulling it all together, and here it is.

After! Playroom

So, a little tour:  The garland I made a few years ago at a Craft Night.   There’s a very easy tutorial on the Purl Bee.  The little brown shelving area houses many of Orlis’ non-art toys — dolls, little gadgets, a tool set, and some stackers.  I envision rotating these quite a bit and really appreciate the size allotted.  It’s a perfect amount of toys.

On the other side of the room, I was excited to create another space where we could easily rotate child artwork for display and wanted something different than what we have in our entryway.    I revisited the same article that gave me the framing idea and found this somewhat-intimidating-but-actually-easy-to-install cable system.   It sits just above a 4-compartment shelving unit that fit all of our large art supplies: paper, paint supplies, collage materials, and the most beloved clay.

I used some old jars, coffee mugs, small metal kitchen prep bowls, and a wooden caddy I had to organize all of the small stuff — beads, pipe cleaners, different kinds of crayons, cotton balls and wooden sticks, chalk, and markers.  Orlis is still too young to have open access to scissors and glue, but we’ll be able to fit those things in here too when I’m feeling confident and ready for more mess.

Most of the baskets I found around the house, and once I let go of needing them to look uniform, it was easy as pie to fill in the gaps from what I saw at garage sales and Ikea.  I can’t remember where I saw the adorable idea to use old paint chips as labels, but I have enough paint chips to fill a paint chip display counter, and thus decided to use it.  (My apologies for lacking an appropriate link and credit here.)


The play kitchen was here from the get-go, but now gets more use as the room feels more inviting and child-centered.

As soon as I finished the room, I let my little monkey loose in there and it was as if he knew exactly where to go — as if he’d been in this room before and knew it well.  He went straight for the shelving unit, and discovered the basket of clay and started pulling things out.

Then he indicated where I should sit down.

And so we play.  Just as we always have, but somehow, in this little room that fits us so well right now, playing feels a little more magical — almost like entering a different time zone, or maybe it’s a different mindset.  In this space, there is only one thing to do: get down to the important business of playing, and the space not only reflects that, but invites it too.

As much as I love the colors and as much as the organization appeals to me aesthetically, what is profound to me about the changes is how effective they are in making play more, well, playful — easier, more accessible, and more creative.  Now, with little prompting, Orlis puts things back in their baskets when he’s done playing with them.  He knows what his options are, and he’s innovative in combining toys and making his own games.  It’s just amazing the effect that a space has.




home science station


I notice, as time goes by and our curiosity grows, that there’s more and more of a desire to bring the outdoors in.  That is, as babies (or at least, my baby) become less-baby-more-toddler, the natural tendencies to seek, to study, and to collect things come into focus.

I’ve been taking a wonderful e-course called Playful Learning where I’m discovering all about how (and why) to collect materials and create spaces in my home that are more conducive to, you guessed it, playing and learning.  What’s really cool about the course is that it appeals directly to the things that are important to me — I suppose you could say, to my parenting values.  It does so in a way that helps me feel really capable and creative when I’m thinking about how to make our home more user-friendly, specifically, for kids.  And it’s funny thing — as much as I know in my heart I care a lot about exposing my child to art and music and science and nature and reading and writing …I also see myself sometimes making counter-productive choices to that end — like putting all the art supplies on an unreachable shelf, or being uptight about getting a little dirt on my floors. This course is helping me realign my desires for my home with my desires for my child (and my life) — you know, like a good coach would.

With Orlis’ growing proclivity towards hunting and gathering, I decided to start with creating a space that emphasizes things found.   One of the first homework assignments for the course is to locate some viable nooks and crannies throughout your living space that might transform easily into child-centered spaces.  I found this one, smack dab in the center of our living room.  I mean, is this wall just begging to be a toddler-sized science center, or what?  The lucky happenstance is, when we first moved in, we hung this wonderful painting of some cracks in the sidewalk by my very talented aunt on the wall.  She’s a big-time inspiration to me for all things having to do with capturing the beauty and complexity of the natural world.  I had her gorgeous-but-lonely painting sitting there all by her herself in the perfect-sized nook for a little table and the beginnings of some found things.  What better object to set the scene?

I made the very easy one-word banner from Handmade Home and within an hour had the whole bite-size Science Station assembled.  A few garage sale items re-purposed (like the little wooden board which is actually an old game piece), some family heirloom pottery, a few sprigs of lavender from our driveway and some mint from our herb garden, some of the rocks Orlis has been bringing indoors, a handful of sand and a postcard procured from our recent trip to the coast, and a flower in a jelly jar, Orlis’ collection basket, and a beloved piece of feedsack fabric to provide a backdrop.  All of it was in the house or just outside, and now it’s here, displayed, for further discovery.     

Oh, I love this little table already, and I know, as time passes it will change and change a hundred times as the seasons do and so do our fascinations with the great big world.  I know we’ll easily find many things to pile and gather in the shelf below, and I know the living things will die and be replaced with other tangible items of interest.  For now, it’s simple and easy, this little science station — the perfect place for a toddler to bring in his outdoor treasures for more handling and organizing, and deeper relationship.

And so far, there have been no bugs and no dead rodents.  Let’s wait and see….




Greetings.  Forgive the substantial delay.  We’ve been up to our ears in this wildly exciting and overwhelming thing called “homemaking.”  We are stimulated, engaged, and exhausted, piling up too many projects and racing against our own deadlines to get them done.  (Know the feeling?)  We are ever-anxious to have our home really feel like home, and thus…the sometimes frantic and sometimes slow-as-honey processes of settling.

We are, finally, greeting our belongings.  Those belongings we deemed worthy of a cross-country pack-and-move — those very same belongings we were doing just fine living without for 2 full weeks.  In fact, we were having quite a lot of fun inhabiting our space without bumping into things, and wondering — why do we have 12 coffee mugs, when we really only need 2?  What about 10 sweaters?  100 cds?  Two of most things is more than enough, I’m learning.

But still, we greeted our stuff with anticipation and welcome, hoping the meaning much of it carries would imbue our home with some warmth, symbol, memory, and color.

We are reminded, over and over again, how much little ones do not need toys.

That a pile of moving blankets and some boxes to move around are more fun than anything else could ever be.

We are enjoying all the “help” that a 17-month-old likes to contribute.

We are gazing with tired eyes at paint cans, old, and new, and attempting to differentiate between the many whites.

We are doing disgusting things we’ve never done before — pulling up carpeting and finding that sometimes what you discover underneath a layer of old covering is a whole lot of dust, dirt, and damage.

The coach in me adores the symbolism in this process, especially — that sometimes when we peel back layers and reveal parts of ourselves we haven’t seen in a while, it’s not pretty at first.  And…it’s worth keeping it revealed.  A little fresh air and some polish can really go a long way.

We are doing our best to maintain some sense of rhythm in our days, and marking the special holidays with a bit of fanfare, despite what seems like workmen everywhere, and lots of noise, mess, and boxes.  I’ve learned, with some obvious error, that rhythms, for little ones, are especially important during times of transition and upheaval.  I take a moment every morning to remind myself of this  — to take a good look at my child before I look at my piles and lists.  I remind myself why I’m bothering to “homemake” in the 1st place — it is to create a comfortable, vibrant space for learning and loving — a place I hope people will gather often.  It is not for impressing people.  I remind myself we can learn and love and gather just fine with paint tape on the walls and boxes still lingering, waiting to be unpacked.

We are [still] graciously accepting help from friends…hoping they like pancakes and guacamole (not together), and pasta every night.  And lots of all of that.

We are hoping these friends don’t mind that we are still borrowing their skillets, and still asking them to use these skillets as a plate as they dine on the floor.

And hoping they’ll forgive the messes if we keep serving more ice cream and wine….on the floor.

(They don’t seem to mind.)

We are finding ourselves tickled by the guerrilla gardening that seems to be creeping into our yard — I think the neighbor girls have gone wild planting these little purple flowers.

I’ll leave them alone for sure.  They bring bee visitors.  We like that.

We are enjoying the hints of spring, including some pretty sunshine-y days, that keep gracing us with their presence.

We are venturing down the block and enjoying, so much, the small and beautiful luxuries that life in a smaller city offers — sidewalks…driveways…parking…quiet.  Green.

We are pausing to notice where we are and who surrounds us.  We are stockpiling “before” pictures and hoping that soon enough, we’ll start posting some “afters.”

And, we are thanking our lucky stars (and all who align them) that we are living this life…this good life.